|Trash in El Aguaje, one of the neighborhoods of Pampachica|
|Mat of water plants|
Yesterday Manuel took Gibran, Cam, and I on a tour of Pampachica while Maddy picked up Humma at the airport and Rhett went to one of the secondary schools to talk about our research. The tour was really useful for me to get my bearings in the community and understand where each neighborhood is. We took a bunch of videos and pictures so look forward to that when we get back!! What struck me the most was the amount of trash that covers everything in many of the neighborhoods. The picture below is from Aguas Blancas and shows a layer of all kinds of trash floating on top of the floodwater from the river. Although this water will dry in the next two weeks, the trash will stay for the community to deal with. With all the work that Kallpa does in Pampachica about clean neighborhoods, not littering, and throwing out trash responsibly (we’ve all seen the murals), how come there is still such an overwhelming amount of pollution? Manuel explained to us that most of the trash doesn’t originate in Pampachica. A narrow canal runs all the way from the airport (about 20 minutes outside the city) into Pampachica where it finally joins with the Nanay River right on the outskirts of Pampachica. Many outlying communities, similar to Pampachica, surround the canal. They place their latrines directly over the canal and are not as responsible about disposing of other waste appropriately. When it rains, the canal turns into a small river and, as you can imagine, all the trash flows into Pampachica. Pampachica is separated from Nanay by a huge mat of weed-like water plants that clogs the water and doesn’t let the trash pass into Nanay. As a result, rather than flowing into the river and eventually into Brazil and the Atlantic Ocean, the trash gets stuck in Pampachica and stays there.
Learning about the origin of all the pollution I was seeing yesterday was fascinating and really sad. It put into perspective all of the hard work that Kallpa has been doing to combat a problem that doesn’t even start in Pampachica. We talk a lot about prevention here in terms of preventing adolescent pregnancy, preventing school dropouts, and preventing barriers to higher education. However, the pollution in Pampachica is a problem that cannot be prevented because the trash comes from so many different places and builds up over time. As inspiring as it is to see the efforts of the youth of Pampachica, including installing trash cans around El Aguaje and cleaning up their neighborhoods when the water dries up, it is incredibly frustrating to know that the trash will just flow down and build up again next year.